South Dakota leaders said 80% of COVID-19 victims will show few if any obvious signs of the infection, but the remaining 20% may need to be hospitalized.

Up to 3% will die.

Friday, Gov. Kristi Noem and other leaders said a full 70% of South Dakota’s population -- or about 600,000 people -- could ultimately become infected with the virus.

If 3% of those die, it would mean 18,000 deaths in South Dakota from COVID-19.

Although this is a worst-case scenario, it is based on calculations of information Noem and other state officials provided during the Friday briefing at the State Capitol in Pierre.

Also, the number of infections is not expected to peak in South Dakota until mid-June. Furthermore, Noem said she expects the mitigation efforts of social distancing to continue through August.

“I have traveled the country; I have traveled the world,” Noem said. “I have all the faith in the world in the people of our state.”

Joining Noem on Friday were:

  • Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon,

  • State Epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton,

  • Dr. Brad Archer, chief medical officer for Monument Health,

  • Dr. David Basel, pediatrics and internal medicine for Avera Health, and

  • Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer of Sanford Health.

“Now, more than ever is the time to double down on staying home,” Suttle said. “It will get worse before it gets better. Please, stay home and stay safe.”

Noem, Malsam-Rysdon and Clayton said they compiled their information from Harvard University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington and other sources.

They said by mid-June, they will need 5,000 hospital beds and 1,300 ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

When asked by the Capital Journal how many of these items are currently available in South Dakota, Malsam-Rysdon said there are a maximum of 4,400 hospital beds and 525 ventilators.

For weeks now, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been on cable TV shows telling viewers that he doesn’t have enough ventilators for the thousands of COVID-19 patients who need them in the ravaged New York City area.

Noem is hopeful of having more success in obtaining the necessary equipment.

“We will get there,” Noem vowed regarding the required number of ventilators for South Dakota.

Noem and Malsam-Rysdon urged South Dakotans to remain patient and kind to one another during these challenging times.

Meanwhile, the National Guard is moving in to establish 100-bed temporary hospitals in both Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Noem said National Guard officials will decide whether to retrofit existing structures to serve as hospitals, or to use different facilities.

Through it all, the medical professionals in attendance Friday maintained a spirit of optimism.

“This will change us, but it is bringing us together,” Basel said.

“These are very stressful times. It is time for us to show a little grace,” Suttle added.

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